Senior citizen problems and discount cards

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

When one of the country’s most prominent billionaires turned 60 a few years ago, he said one of the things he was looking forward to was his senior citizen card.

He said it in jest of course and in reality, it would not really make a dent on his net worth whether or not he would get that 20 percent discount from restaurants, drugstores, and other establishments, as mandated by law, athough I am sure he would enjoy the perks that come with his card.

But for ordinary Filipinos, more than the enjoyment, the senior citizen discount card is very much welcome, a necessity, even.

Many of our seniors after all, are retired or just about to retire, no longer employed, and of course need all the financial resources they can get. More than the money, it’s also a way for the State to honor them.

As Republic Act 9994 or the Expanded Senior Citizens Act states, it is the duty of the State to provide social justice in all phases of national development and that the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.

“There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women and children. Article XV, Section 4 of the Constitution further declares that it is the duty of the family to take care of its elderly members while the State may design programs of social security for them,” it said.

20 percent discount

It is the same law that grants a 20 percent discount and exemption from the value-added tax (VAT) on the sale of certain goods and services from all establishments for the exclusive use and enjoyment of senior citizens.

Which is why it is very wrong for some establishments not to honor the senior citizen cards.

Last December, while having coffee with a senior citizen businessman inside a restaurant in a hotel owned by a listed conglomerate, I was surprised to hear the waitress explain that the establishment does not give the full 20 percent discount. When my host asked her to check again, she came back and admitted she made a mistake.

I wonder if it was an honest mistake or if it was the usual practice – to inform the senior guests first that they will not get their full discounts and hope the guest will not complain.

There are similar stories. I’ve heard of establishments refusing to grant discounts on bread or sandwiches ordered by seniors or on their take-out orders. Some salons also don’t grant discounts to their senior clients.

There are even worse incidents. Remember that story about a senior citizen lawyer who wanted to file a case in court against an establishment that refused to give him a discount because he forgot his card? The law states that a government ID indicating one’s date of birth would suffice in the absence of the senior citizen card.

Of course, there are also stories of people abusing their discount cards. This should also not be the case.

But at the end of the day, the law mandates discounts and VAT exemption on goods and services, including medicines, dental services, restaurants, recreation centers, cinemas, etc.

Our establishments should honor the law because it is the least we can do for our seniors.

There are other benefits mandated by the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, such as exemption from the payment of individual income taxes of senior citizens who are minimum wage earners and the grant of a minimum of five percent discount on water and electricity bills of seniors.

There are other benefits mandated by law. Our seniors would do well to study the law to know what is due them.

Representation in local governments

I also received other suggestions, including a proposal for seniors to be given a representation at the Sanguniang Panlalawigan, Sanguniang Panglungsod, Sanguniang Bayan, and Sanguniang Barangay, even as ex -officio members just like in the Kabataang Barangay.

I agree with these suggestions because a local government can make more effective ordinances or regulations for seniors if they know what the seniors need.

Wheelchairs and ramps

A 75-year old reader also said that public spaces in the country should have more ramps for wheelchairs and dedicated areas for senior citizens so they do not have to join the wild rumpus – young ones rushing through daily life or toddlers running about, for instance.

Indeed, there are so many more policy changes we can do for our seniors while effectively implementing existing laws that grant them benefits and privileges.

It is important to honor our seniors the best way we can because once upon a time, when they were young and strong, they paved unpaved roads, lit dark paths, and guided us along the way so that our own little journeys would be much better than theirs.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com


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